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Person of Interest ramblings

Spoiler warning: These are general musings that don't contain any specific plot spoilers, but do refer to general characterization and relationship trends and developments. There are thus very vague spoilers for the entire series up to the present, and more specific spoilers about a single introductory, not plot-relevant scene of episode 2x17 (Proteus).

About Reese signing over his soul to Finch.

Is it just me, or does Reese basically sign over his soul to Finch? To me, especially in the beginning, Reese reads like someone who needs a master. He himself doesn't seem to have either the will or the trust in himself to be truly self-determined.

There are many plausible reasons for this, and I'm sure there's more than a single factor involved. Partly, I'd say, it's because he is simply overwhelmed, crushed by a world that seems entirely malevolent, and entirely set against him. Partly, I think, it's due to Reese's military/CIA training, which systematically conditioned him to follow, to be loyal unto death, to regard himself as an expendable weapon, and to obey without question.

But beyond that, and perhaps most importantly…

I suspect that Reese is, by nature, someone who prefers to carry out orders rather than give them. But he is also a deeply moral person, and in order to let himself carry out orders with a clear conscience, he must trust that the orders he is given are just.

He did trust in this, in his time in the CIA. And he was wrong. I see Reese's hollowness at the beginning of the series as mostly caused by the fact that he's discovered he's been deceived, and that the orders he's been carrying out have not been even remotely good or just; not motivated by anything he could justify to himself. Reese has had to realize that he himself has unwittingly made the world a worse place, causing damage on a scale he has no way of gauging. And he is not the kind of person who can shift the blame, or shrug it all off.

In effect, Reese has been badly broken. He doesn't trust himself to know right from wrong, or to make any kind of important choice at all.

And then there is Finch, who gives him a purpose, direction, and new structures to act within. Who gives him the believable promise of being able to make a difference for the better, or being able to use his skills to help people. Whose style of leadership is eccentric and benevolent, but still definitely leadership. Who is overwhelmingly competent and brilliant, and evidently entirely committed to the cause of doing good. Who genuinely needs Reese and trusts him to do what needs to be done. And who doesn't treat Reese like an interchangable, disposable killer to be kept in the dark.

I don't think Finch is a boss for Reese so much as he is a master. Even an owner, in some ways. And this might not be entirely healthy – but it is definitely both what Reese wants and what Reese needs.

Outside of Finch and the Quest he has taken on for Finch, I can't see Reese having any kind of life or motivation. It's like all of that has been burned out of him.

About Reese's recovery, and the bounds thereof.

Of course, during the series, Reese recovers. He relaxes, grows to trust Finch, grows to trust some others - and beyond that, even like them. He starts making jokes, bonds with a dog, even announces that he woke up feeling happy.

I don't think that this means he is learning to stand on his own feet without Finch. I think that this is Reese recovering within the safe haven of Finch's leadership. Reese could not realistically have continued the Quest on his own, alone with the machine, as Finch evidently envisioned.

As a side-note: I think it's interesting that this is the one huge and blatant miscalculation we see Finch making in present series time (in flashbacks, of course, we see him making far larger ones): I don't think there's any chance Reese would be able to carry on by himself, without Finch, and by rights, this really should not escape Finch's notice. Or is it just that right now, there's simply no viable alternative as a fall-back plan in the event of Finch's death?

Anyway: If Finch were taken away permanently, I think Reese would go entirely to pieces, in a no doubt very bloody and violent way.

About a scene I really like.

In "Proteus" (2x17), Reese and Finch go to a movie together that I am pretty certain Finch picked out; Reese is carrying an umbrella big enough for both of them, and carefully holds it over Finch without being prompted or even thinking about it; Reese even puts his hand to Finch's back to guide and support him, while Finch leads the way.

It's just a number of very small things, really, but for me, this was the confirmation of everything I've theorized about Reese seeing Finch as a master (in the most positive sense) rather than anything else. They're off the clock, but even so Reese is completely oriented towards Finch, is helpful, thoughtful, solicitous and attentive, and is entirely content to follow Finch's lead. It's not the kind of behavior that I would expect to see Reese displaying towards a boss, even a boss who is also a friend.

Someone he was dating, on the other hand – yes. But that's a different story. ;-)

About Finch holding Reese's soul in trust and Finch's Ominous Past ™.

Finch, meanwhile, is no doubt aware that he has acquired Reese as more than an employee; that he has, in fact, taken on responsibility for Reese's life, soul, fate and salvation. That's part of why he chose him, in fact, that Reese by himself had nowhere to go and nothing to be.

And maybe Finch himself is partly to blame for how hollow Reese is... he does seem to have had a hand in some of the events that have led Reese to this pass. I think Finch feels a sense of responsibility for Reese not merely because he failed to save him from getting yet more blood on his hands back when Reese's number came up, but also because before that, Finch was somehow involved in the super-secret operation that was supposed to be Stanton's and Reese's last assignment.

So much for my rambling. :-) What do you think?


( 46 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 19th, 2013 07:33 pm (UTC)
Yes!! I agree so much with all of this - I think Finch is exactly what he needs, someone who can give him orders and goals (trusting Reese to decide tactics), and he can trust those orders and goals and he doesn't have to make the decisions about them.

I also think you're right that he couldn't carry on by himself - I remember in 2x10, when he apologizes to Finch for miscalculating and getting caught - I think for Reese, in that moment, he wasn't thinking that he took a calculated risk and it didn't pan out - he was thinking that he deviated from Finch's orders, and he screwed it up.

I love the way you put it - holding his soul in trust - beautiful, and so true!!
Mar. 19th, 2013 10:31 pm (UTC)
Exactly! Finch gives Reese far more freedom than he was ever given in the military or the CIA, entirely trusting him with the "how"... and he also gives him the safe, ordered framework to operate within, someone else making the big decisions, setting the goals.

I think that the very fact Finch trusts Reese so absolutely with the "how" side of the operation is another thing Reese desperately needs. Once he realizes that he can trust Finch, by extension he also begins to trust himself again - because Finch trusts Reese, and he trusts Finch not to be wrong. And, yes, because he cannot fail Finch.

I think for Reese, in that moment, he wasn't thinking that he took a calculated risk and it didn't pan out - he was thinking that he deviated from Finch's orders, and he screwed it up.

Yes! And he's afraid that he's failed Finch, which is pretty much the worst thing that can happen in Reese's world. And yet even while he is completely willing to pay the price for his failure, he also trusts so completely that Finch will set things right and not abandon him. At least that's the sense I got...

I love the way you put it - holding his soul in trust

This is what I really love about the show! :-)

And I forgot to even mention that to me, every instance of Reese's insistence on the importance of finding and holding on to "that one person who connects you to the world" is pretty clearly a reference to Reese having found another such person in Finch, allowing him to reconnect with the world at last. The PTB can't possibly not be doing that on purpose, right...?
Mar. 19th, 2013 10:35 pm (UTC)
No, definitely doing it on purpose. It's an ongoing theme in the series, really - Reese opens by talking about connections, Finch constantly emphasizes that this is what the Machine does, it identifies connections. Reese tells every random person he meets that someone found him and saved him. In the pilot, Reese very deliberately says he doesn't have friends - in 2x01, the only thing he seems capable of saying is "I have to find my one friend." Even in 2x14, which is just a one shot (unless Logan Pierce appears again), there's all this emphasis on how social networking is about forging connections and everyone needs a connection to the world.

So no, not an accident - there's a very deliberate theme about the need for connection, and about finding those connections in unexpected, unusual ways.
Mar. 19th, 2013 11:06 pm (UTC)
Only connect, as E. M. Forster would have said. ;-)

I love how clear it always is to others that Reese is not a lone ranger type of hero, but basically the loyal one-man task force sent out by the guy in charge. With the result that everyone new Reese meets just goes "ah, so there's the boss, huh" when they finally meet Finch, or "talking to the boss, huh", or something like that. ;-) (And, heh, "stalking the boss on your day off again, huh Reese"...)

Yeah, I love the obsessive stalking, too, and that they both just seem to interpret as a sign of affection and friendly interest. And is it just me or is Reese even kind of grabby with Finch, comparatively speaking? I mean, I'd actually have to watch the eps in question again to be sure, but when I was looking for icons I realized that Reese seems to touch Finch a lot more than I remember him touching anyone else.
Mar. 19th, 2013 11:09 pm (UTC)
Yes, I do love how everyone recognizes Finch as the boss - from Elias to Leon to Shaw to the assassin guy in 2x15 - the only one who didn't seem to get that Reese already had a boss was the kid in Wolf and Cub, and that episode COULD NOT HAVE BEEN CLEARER that Reese needs a master to guide him, and that he will literally die without one. Which is a point that was made in 1x01 and 2x13, as well.

I do love the way stalking is a sign of affection. I mean, everything from the casual indications that Finch and Reese listen to each other and their friends all the time, to Reese stalking Finch on his day off for no reason other than he had nothing better to do.

I actually don't know about the touching - haven't noticed that specifically to be honest, but I'll look for it!
Mar. 19th, 2013 11:35 pm (UTC)
Yes! And the social media millionaire trying to poach Reese was hilarious. It was so completely futile, and the guy knew it, and just kept trying anyway because that's how he was.

This series really surprised me with the Reese characterization - it's so coherent and well-executed, it makes such perfect sense in terms of psychology, and it's so entirely unexpected for a hero of this kind. At least I didn't expect it!

*g* Yes, what *else* would Reese do on a day off... except maybe go watch a foreign movie with subtitles that Finch suggested? *g* (I could actually see Reese reading books he's seen Finch read or heard him mention, haunt places Finch has shown some measure of interest in, try foods Finch has said he likes... and somehow it would all be sweet, rather than creepy, because of how their relationship works.)

I hadn't noticed the touching either, but there's a lot of screenshots of it. :-) I must investigate further...
Mar. 19th, 2013 11:39 pm (UTC)
except maybe go watch a foreign movie with subtitles that Finch suggested? *g* (I could actually see Reese reading books he's seen Finch read or heard him mention, haunt places Finch has shown some measure of interest in, try foods Finch has said he likes... and somehow it would all be sweet, rather than creepy, because of how their relationship works

He already quotes him all the time!! It's one of the more amazing things I noticed - Reese is constantly adopting things Finch has said to him and repeating them to other people. Like a worshipful student might do.

I am just terribly afraid they'll screw up Reese's characterization. I was so burned in Supernatural. The first two seasons had this remarkably coherent, really complex characterization and relationship between the two brothers, and then they just kind of screwed it up. Lots of actions taken because in the moment it was cool or funny that were totally at odds with the characters we'd gotten to know, etc. I'm so afraid that either TPTB doesn't realize what they've done with Reese and will screw it up in the future, or they'll just get lazy and/or bring on new writers who don't know the characters as well, and ruin it all.
Mar. 20th, 2013 12:03 am (UTC)
I have to pay more attention to the quoting! I've noticed it several times, but I hadn't realized it was such a frequent thing. And the worshipful student comparison is so, so fitting.

Not terribly apropos, but I love how carefully Reese teases Finch, btw. Or is that just me? I just get the impression that he's almost shy about it. He doesn't want to offend or test any boundaries, after all, just to be friendly and connect...

I am just terribly afraid they'll screw up Reese's characterization.

Oh god, yes. I am the same - down to having been just as saddened by what happened to SPN. That's why I wondered (in one of my previous comments) whether POI's TPTB are actually aware of the way they are portraying the bond between Reese and Finch to be - in a show of this kind, for a hero of this kind, I wouldn't normally expect characterization that's so subtle and well thought-out, and so consistently and patiently developed over time. Maybe I'm a cynic, but my cynicism is honed by countless bad experiences just like SPN.

Although I do think that POI has better writers than SPN ever did. In SPN, it always seemed like pure chance that they happened on some fascinating family dynamics (oh god, I *loved* the eps when John turned up again and you could see the old family roles clashing with the new relationship that had started to build between Dean and Sam, and the resentment and confusion it caused, as well as the dawning realizations - that was so brilliant) and actors that somehow turned mediocre writing into far more nuanced emotional truth than could have been expected.

Ahem, anyway. Drifted off a bit there. ;-) I do think POI is slightly more likely to stay on course than SPN did, but that may not be saying all that much.

I'm so afraid that either TPTB doesn't realize what they've done with Reese and will screw it up in the future, or they'll just get lazy and/or bring on new writers who don't know the characters as well, and ruin it all.

Yeah. :-/

Edited at 2013-03-20 12:05 am (UTC)
Mar. 19th, 2013 11:11 pm (UTC)
basically just completely cosigning all of this with much love <3

Also I loved, related to this, in the most recent ep (All In) where Reese is willing to tolerate the Russian Roulette gun being fired at him and at Leon, which to me signals that he's evaluated the situation and taking action is equivalent to dying (as it would have been, had Lou not palmed the bullet) -- but when it's pointed at Finch, he acts anyway, and the only answer I can see is not that he thinks he can save Finch, but just that he'd rather be dead than watch Finch die.
Mar. 19th, 2013 11:44 pm (UTC)
Yes! I interpreted the Russian Roulette scene the same way - Reese accepts the risk that he himself (and even comparatively innocent bystanders like Leon) will die. His own death doesn't scare him. But he cannot tolerate or allow any chance of Finch dying. Not only is that not an expected and acceptable risk in the context of their Quest, in Reese's mind, but it would also leave Reese totally unmoored, drifting and helpless again... unconnected to the world, unconnected even to himself. And that is his worst nightmare.

Reese really is extremely emo for such an unemotive guy. ;-)
Mar. 20th, 2013 12:03 am (UTC)
This is perfect.
Mar. 20th, 2013 12:18 am (UTC)
:-) I'm glad I'm not the only one who interprets Reese and his dependence on Finch this way!
Mar. 20th, 2013 12:51 am (UTC)
I was trying to explain how rich the characters are to a friend and failing miserably until I saw this essay. Now I can just link her!
Mar. 20th, 2013 12:16 am (UTC)
I do agree with your assessment of Reese this way. He'd be completely lost without Finch. Finch also does his best to actually take care of him in just about every way possible.

Reese reminds me of Minekura's version of Cho Hakkai in the Saiyuki manga and anime. In that he would probably lose his mind if his Sha Gojyo died before him. He's co-dependent on an extreme basis on him, especially since Gojyo found him on the brink of death that particular night. Not very much different from Finch tracking down a weary, and very much courting death Reese in the pilot of POI.

I could go on about the similarities of those two pairs, but their level of complexity is very much on par. Though more obvious in Saiyuki, but just as many aspects are as subtle as Finch and Reese too.

Either way,i love how well you clarified this! Thank you.
Mar. 20th, 2013 12:36 am (UTC)
Yes, I love how Finch is just as solicitous of Reese as Reese is of him, if in completely different ways. But he gives his life new purpose and new direction, he gets him donuts, he buys him an apartment, he destroys the expensive bugged watch some other brilliant millionaire tries to give him... ;-)

Hm, that's a very interesting parallel - it wouldn't have occurred to me, but you definitely have a point. I've also always seen Hakkai as extremely dependent on Gojyo... although unlike Finch, I don't think Gojyo is aware of this. Neither can Gojyo be said to be the boss or master of Hakkai, in my view - in this pair, Hakkai is the more aware one, and the one who is steering the relationship. Not exactly the one more in control, though. It's complex, as you say! :-)

And it's definitely another one of the complex and fascinating, more than slightly obsessive fictional relationship of the kind I love best.

Edited at 2013-03-20 12:37 am (UTC)
Mar. 20th, 2013 04:10 am (UTC)
and very much courting death Reese in the pilot of POI.

I just want to add that in the original pilot script, it all starts on December 31st with Reese up on the Manhattan bridge (I think that was the one), ready to jump and kill himself. He only decides against it at the last minute. What we see in the pilot happens later.

Edited at 2013-03-20 04:11 am (UTC)
Mar. 21st, 2013 06:57 am (UTC)
Whaaaat, that is amazing. Do you have a copy/link for that script, by any chance? *hopeful*
Mar. 21st, 2013 09:43 pm (UTC)
You rock! :)
Mar. 22nd, 2013 05:02 am (UTC)
Mar. 20th, 2013 03:11 am (UTC)
I suspect that Reese is, by nature, someone who prefers to carry out orders rather than give them.

Reese directly contradicts this in canon, in response to Hersh, who says "We don't give orders, we execute them." Reese responds, "Speak for yourself." Right before smashing him with a glass.

And indeed, he is constantly giving orders to Finch, Fusco and Carter. So your statement puzzles me.

In fact, Reese seems to be in the process of re-acquiring his own agency from the point that Harold hired him. Harold gives him back his life by giving him a clean purpose, and Reese begins the arduous task of starting to make his own decisions again under that umbrella.

This is why his character arc seems so hopeful to me. I don't see any signing over of souls. I see a broken man putting the pieces together again. I wouldn't watch the show if I thought Reese was Finch's puppet. But Reese makes his own very problematic decisions (in fact in direct opposition to Finch's desires on a number of occasions.) Instead of the CIA telling him whom to kill, Reese is the one who decides now. It's a heavy burden. But you'll notice it's not Finch who decides those tough questions.

I would think, if anyone is holding anyone's soul in trust, it's Reese who is holding Finch's, because Reese is the one making the dirtiest decisions for them both. Ultimately, the consequences of who lives or dies? That's on both of them.

Edited at 2013-03-20 03:13 am (UTC)
Mar. 20th, 2013 04:28 am (UTC)
Reese directly contradicts this in canon, in response to Hersh, who says "We don't give orders, we execute them." Reese responds, "Speak for yourself." Right before smashing him with a glass.

And indeed, he is constantly giving orders to Finch, Fusco and Carter. So your statement puzzles me.

I think the difference between Reese and Hersh is that both of them are following orders, but Reese has made a decision whose orders to follow, and that he wouldn't follow them if he sees them as amoral, whereas Hersh follows each and every order no matter what it is.

That is a huge difference, and of course Reese answers that with "Speak for yourself".

But it doesn't change that I wholeheartedly agree with what was said before: Reese needs a Master. He just needed that Master to be a good person, that's his most important requirement.

And giving orders to Finch, Fusco and Carter in the spur of the moment because he wants to save them doesn't make a difference here. Because of course he does that only as part of his role as the person who takes care of business and protects the innocent.

I don't think that interpretation makes Reese's development less hopeful or turns him into a puppet of some sorts.

He does make decisions and he does think for himself. But he does that inside the confines of what makes him happy, which is by being a very vital part of something good. By being the caretaker of the part of this operation he thinks cannot be replaced (=Finch).

I think what he doesn't see right now is that he is just as irreplaceable to Finch as Finch is to him, but I hope the show will come to that in the future.
Mar. 20th, 2013 05:28 am (UTC)
Sorry? How does Reese saying he doesn't take orders get re-interpreted by you into him saying he is following Finch's orders?

But, in fact, Finch *isn't* Reese's Master - the Machine is *both* of theirs. They both take their Numbers from the Machine (which is a fatal flaw I very much fear will be exploited somehow in upcoming eps.) This is proven in the Contingency arc when Reese speaks directly to the Machine itself and bargains with it. And, in fact, I noticed it's only after Reese talks to the Machine that he stopped investigating into Finch's background information. (Ordering Fusco around to do it, btw.) Reese never fully trusted Finch until he'd actually spoken to the real Master. Reese needed to know who this final authority was that was handing down the Numbers, and just how trustworthy the entity was. By actually bending the rules for him so he could find Finch, the Machine proved itself to Reese. So yes, he has essentially decided on following a trustworthy source. But that source isn't Finch.

Because you'll note in Contingency that Reese repeatedly says he is looking for his friend. He won't (not can't, but won't) do this without his friend. Not his boss or his master. Finch is his partner. As Finch himself says in Relevance - "No one is in charge. My friend and I help people."

I really can't get over this weird push people seem to be making to cut Reese's agency from him. It's completely bizarre. There are countless canon examples of him making his own decisions and arguing courses of action and going against Finch's wishes. In the first episode he acquires his own armory (despite Finch's protests) and quite obviously in Many Happy Returns he kicks Finch out of the car and goes after the Marshal, then disappears for two days and later rebukes Finch very firmly for being an ass.

Reese's orders to Fusco certainly aren't spur of the moment. Reese acquired Fusco from the get-go, and again, against Finch's repeated protests, Reese keeps Fusco on a string, and then, when Carter comes on board, Reese keeps their involvement from each other, once again against Finch's protests, handling them as assets. He was the one giving them most of their orders until the end of the season.

At the end of Witness, Reese is so furious about the incomplete information that led to him helping a crime boss that he is obviously close to quitting altogether. He doesn't look like someone who will fall apart at the seams.

Yes, he can't do the numbers without Finch, but that hardly means the guy hasn't gotten his shit together. He doesn't need a master. He's not a puppy.
Mar. 20th, 2013 02:55 pm (UTC)
Sorry? How does Reese saying he doesn't take orders get re-interpreted by you into him saying he is following Finch's orders?

Maybe I didn't make it clear what I meant or you are taking what I am saying too literally.

He is "following Finch's orders" by protecting the numbers. He "follows orders" by joining Finch in his quest. He "follows orders" by being a part of what Finch is doing, and he is a part of it by choice.
You seem to think I interpreted what they are doing as Finch stating orders and Reese following that. That's not what I am saying at all, and I don't think anyone here is saying that at all.

What Reese does is joining something (as in Finch), like he joined the CIA. But with the CIA he followed their orders no matter where they lead him, even if he wasn't agreeing with their methods. That's when he was the real puppet and it nearly destroyed him. With Finch, he's joining him because he believes in the cause.

I am not sure how else to explain this.

None of this has anything to do with not making his own decisions, with Reese and Finch not being friends, or Reese not being able to give orders to Finch if he has to.

It is about a cause that he needs and follows. That cause - or purpose - is his "master" if you will. The purpose is embodied by Finch. And that's why Finch is his "Master".

Again, I think you are taking the word "Master" way too literal here. It is about a whole lot of different things than just taking and giving out orders and making your own decisions.
Mar. 20th, 2013 05:29 pm (UTC)
I think perhaps we just define the word "Master" differently then. Okay. In any event, to my mind, Reese's true Master is the Machine.
Mar. 20th, 2013 05:39 pm (UTC)
I think we define the Reese/Finch relationship differently, not just the word Master, because I basically agree with every single thing that has been said by other people in response to what you said. But different people interpret things differently, so that's fine.
Mar. 20th, 2013 07:52 am (UTC)
If I thought Reese was a puppet wíth no agency, then I would definitely not be watching the series, either! Fortunately, that's not how I read it at all - and that is not what I intended to describe above.

During the course of the series, the unquestioning obedience demanded by the CIA is frequently a subject, and shown to be something that is anathema to Reese - who, as a very moral person, needs to know that what he is doing is just, and can't just shrug off the consequences of and the responsibility for his actions as "I was only following orders". That's the vital difference between Reese and people like Hersh.

Reese no longer follows orders unquestioningly. He used to, and it's part of what nearly destroyed him. Now, he follows orders with open eyes, because (and if!) he accepts them to be good orders. Reese chooses to accept the quest Finch gives him and follow Finch's leadership because he believes that Finch's cause is just, and that Finch himself is a good man. That is very different from being the CIA's (or anyone's) puppet with no power or will to make decisions of his own.

But - in my view - Reese still does want and need someone else to be in charge in general. That is not a bad thing, and does not mean that he cannot make any decisions of his own (or give orders of his own). Wanting to have someone else lead and make the big policy decisions, needing to be given purpose and structure is very much not the same as being a puppet.

That Reese gives other people plenty of orders and makes very tough decisions in the course of carrying out the quest he has taken on with Finch - that is not a contradiction to my view of Reese being someone who prefers to carry out orders rather than give them. Even the CIA operatives completely trained out of questioning orders don't follow *everyone's* orders. They give plenty of orders of their own, are perfectly comfortable with making the tough decisions of who to kill in the course of their mission, and so on.

It doesn't mean that Reese can't act contrary to Finch's orders on occasion, either. He can, and does, use his own judgement on how to carry out the quest for numbers (or whatever it should be called). And of course he entirely disregards Finch's wishes when it comes to carrying on without Finch, just Reese and the machine.

I agree that Reese's character arc is hopeful; I also see him recovering, picking himself up and putting himself back together. And I think he does have agency. It looks like neither of us would be interested in watching a show about a puppet.
Mar. 20th, 2013 09:53 am (UTC)
But - in my view - Reese still does want and need someone else to be in charge in general.

Your view doesn't appear to reflect canon very closely though. As stated below, he doesn't behave like a man "needing someone in charge." Theirs appears to be a partnership, where they both contribute and collaborate toward the greater purpose they are trying to achieve. They each have their purview of skills and excellence. So please, offer concrete examples where Reese is asking Finch to take over because he would rather Finch lead him and he just follow. ? You do remember Triggerman, in which Finch didn't want him to continue to pursue helping their Number, Riley, and Reese disagreed and continued to do so, even after Riley shot him? I mean, Riley was their *Number*. That's a Big Policy decision. Or, of course, Shadow Box, when Reese ends up getting captured because he won't listen to Finch when he begs him to pull out and leave Abby and Shayn to their fate? Once again, their Number. Reese blows Finch off. Gets Abby and Shayn out of there, but ends up in the hoosegow.

So, yeah. I'm just not buying it. Reese isn't following anyone. But he definitely appreciates the hell out of Finch and what Finch has given him and repays it with friendship and protection. He also thanks him for it all the time. Reese is a new man because of it. That gift is in no way devalued - in fact, it is *enriched* by Reese being strong enough now to have his own agency, perhaps for the first time since he joined the Army.
Mar. 20th, 2013 10:02 am (UTC)
I think the idea of Finch being Reese's Master - and Reese needing that - is reinforced throughout the series.

Almost everyone they encounter who has any sense of what he does recognizes Finch as the boss. It's repeatedly reinforced that Finch is the boss, including direct parallels between Finch and Elias - the light version and the dark version.

Reese decides tactics, but not general direction and not general goals. This isn't to say he's a puppet or blindly obedient - he argues, he takes initiative - but he's a lieutenant, not the general. That means he orders others - Carter, Fusco - but Finch is still making the larger decisions. You see that all the time -Finch directs Reese to continue tailing someone, to make sure the super is out of the building, he decides whether Lou can remain as part of the con in All In.

When Reese does reject an explicit order, it's often portrayed as a very bad thing. I'm not talking about negotiation like in Triggerman - I'm talking about directly refusing Finch, like in Many Happy Returns or in 2x10. In the former, it's portrayed as scary and an explicit sign that Reese is out of control. In the latter, Reese himself admits it was a mistake and apologizes.

The term Master isn't one that fandom invented - the series gave it to us in Wolf and Cub, which could not have been more explicit in that: Reese is a "ronin," which is described for us viewers as essentially a roaming warrior with a code of honor/ethics, he needs a master, when he doesn't have a master he's likely to be suicidal, his former masters lied to him about who was bad and who was good and thus caused him to kill the wrong people, and now he has a new master who is properly directing him. That's not the fans - that's the terminology that the show introduced.

In Risk, Reese described Harold as someone who looks after him.

Reese often quotes Harold's words as his own, the way a student or an apprentice would. It's very striking; it means he's particularly attentive to Finch and admiring of him. It's not reciprocal; Finch doesn't quote Reese, it's something Reese does. There are lots of examples, but one place it's particularly striking is in 1x06, where he tells Zoe he knows everything about her, and basically repeats her life story in a manner that mirrors how Finch recruited him in 1x01. It's like he's consciously learning from and emulating Finch, which is another way that the show signals Reese's subordinate position.

So basically my point is - at the very least, there's room for interpretation on this. And the interpretation that I have, I think, is at least as valid as yours. And the fact that so very many fans watch this and immediately have the same interpretation suggests that there's something in the text that supports it, even if you happen to disagree.

Edited at 2013-03-20 10:23 am (UTC)
Mar. 20th, 2013 02:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you. You put it much better than I could.
Mar. 20th, 2013 05:18 pm (UTC)
When Reese does reject an explicit order, it's often portrayed as a very bad thing. I'm not talking about negotiation like in Triggerman - I'm talking about directly refusing Finch, like in Many Happy Returns

I'm sorry, but in Many Happy Returns in fact, Reese *rebukes* Harold for screwing up. He makes very clear to Harold that he fucked up in a) not telling Reese about about the number, and Reese in fact has to *rescue Finch* from his own screw-up just as he's being manhandled by the Marshal. remember that? Reese then later, again, rebukes Finch at the very end. *Finch* was the one who effed up in that episode, because he promised not to lie to Reese.

Are you even watching the same show I am? Reese wasn't out of control in that ep. *Finch was*. Reese took the Marshal to the Mexican prison. Finch almost screwed up their partnership (and almost got tortured by the Marshal to get the location of the Number.)

Quotations don't mean subordination. I think Reese admires Finch's intelligence a huge amount. Finch is the brains of the outfit, there's no denying that, and Reese is definitely his apprentice when it comes to the Machine. Just like Finch was when it came to self-defense. Remember that?

It's repeatedly reinforced that Finch is the boss

But not by Finch or Reese. Words from their mouth are, they are friends at this point. Reese spends 10 million bucks of Finch's money without blinking an eye.

People assume Finch is the boss because he has the money, yeah, but that doesn't mean Reese wouldn't walk if Finch proposed something that violated Reese's moral code.

The tone of the original post was that Reese would pretty much fall apart without Finch. Yours implies the same, that Reese would be suicidal without Finch.

I think you guys are wacky on the pipe.
Mar. 20th, 2013 05:31 pm (UTC)
First of all, apparently we aren't watching the same thing. And second of all, I think there are other legitimate interpretations.

I saw Reese as scary and out of control in Many Happy Returns. I don't think he was proved "right" by the end of it - maybe in the limited sense that Harold couldn't have handled it alone, but not that Harold was wrong for thinking Reese could barely handle the case emotionally. At the last minute he made the right choice, after Carter and Finch practically begged him - the whole point is, it was a very very near miss.

I think that when every character who meets Reese and Finch declares Finch the boss - explicitly - we're getting a valuable clue about their relationship, unless the show explicitly tells us "look how funny it is that everyone misperceives the relationship" - which the show has never done. And Reese himself said Finch is like Elias - that parallel has been drawn a couple of times. Elias is a boss - that's his whole raison d'etre.

Think about 2x16. Reese fetches Shaw. He delivers her to Finch. He stands back, and Finch takes the lead in explaining things to her. Reese tells Shaw that someone else wants to speak to her. Now, have you ever seen a movie where that division labor reflected partners? Because that division of labor - one guy fetches someone, brings that someone to someone else, the someone else makes a speech - that's standard movie/tv code for "boss sends his second to get someone the boss wants to talk to."

Finch gives Reese orders, not the other way around. Finch bought Reese an apartment. He didn't ask if Reese wanted one, or what his preferences in an apartment were. He just bought one.

When has anyone ever said that Reese wouldn't walk if Finch asked him to violate his moral code? Because I haven't seen that argument anywhere.

I do think Reese would be suicidal without Finch since, he you know (1) said so in 2x13; (2) actually threatened to kill himself without Finch in 2x01, and (3) Finch said so in 1x01; and (4) the Wolf and Cub kid said that Reese was supposed to kill himself without a master. He said that explicitly - and the only reason he was wrong was that he was wrong about whether Reese was employed - he didn't know that someone was already paying him. He said that without a master, "technically, you're supposed to kill yourself, but instead you're roaming the countryside helping people" - he didn't realize that Reese wasn't doing that on his own, he was hired to do it, and since the "Reese would have killed himself but for Harold's job" is repeated in at least three other episodes, I think I can safely say that it is at least legitimate for me to take the text at its literal word, even if you, you know, disagree with something that's now been said four times in four separate episodes.

All of which is to say, I don't think that makes my interpretation any less valid than yours.

I just want to be clear - especially because I don't want to get into a prolonged argument in someone else's journal - my claim here is very very limited. It is that this particular interpretation of the Reese/Finch relationship has textual support. It's not an illegitimate interpretation.

Edited at 2013-03-20 05:39 pm (UTC)
Mar. 20th, 2013 06:30 pm (UTC)
Reese fetches Shaw. He delivers her to Finch.

Finch is always the one to talk to people about the Machine. The "Machine-talk" is Finch's purview (he's the one who spoke to Peck.) Just like Reese talks Tillman out of killing Andrew.

1x01 and 2x13 were referring to Reese's alcoholic decline, before Finch found him. Not after he got his shit together again. 2x01 he didn't threaten to kill himself. He just said he wouldn't be the Machine's contingency without Finch. "I won't do it without him," is a far cry from a suicide threat (I assume that's the quote you mean.)

But you're right, this isn't my journal. And I don't think we will meet at any given point.
Mar. 20th, 2013 06:53 pm (UTC)
Yes! I agree with everything you say in this and your previous comment. I haven't paid enough attention to the "ronin" comparison before (mostly, I think, because that ep isn't one of my favorites and didn't grab my attention as much as some others), but now that you mention it, *absolutely*. It's an actual, explicit canon analogy for the warrior-and-master relationship between Reese and Finch. Reese used to be a ronin; now he's a trusted samurai serving a just master.

How much do I love that the show actually comes out and says this? A lot. :-)

Edited at 2013-03-20 06:55 pm (UTC)
Mar. 21st, 2013 07:10 am (UTC)
Just to jump in here - John also falls asleep watching a samurai movie in 1x01 (and considering the scene looks like a messy brawl, probably a ronin). Anytime a scripted show puts in something they probably had to pay for the rights to, I assume they did it very deliberately. That they brought up that specific parallel again in Wolf and Cub just solidifies it for me.
Mar. 21st, 2013 06:50 pm (UTC)
Yes! :-) That's very true, and it's wonderful to think that all of those characterization details are deliberate and planned. I so hope TPTB keep it up...
Mar. 20th, 2013 06:35 pm (UTC)
Your view doesn't appear to reflect canon very closely though.

Clearly, this is a matter of opinion. I think my view is indeed firmly grounded in canon; giandujakiss did an excellent job with addressing this and provided such extensive and detailed canon references that I feel I can safely refer you to her replies for some of the reasons why I believe this.

Obviously your interpretation is different, which is fair enough. It's clear we won't be able to reach a consensus on this matter, but fortunately, we don't have to.

Personally, I think it'd be boring if everyone held the same opinion.
Mar. 20th, 2013 08:47 pm (UTC)
Gianduja did nothing to counter any of my examples where Reese took control and ordered Finch around. I have a whole bunch more I'd be happy to provide. With quotes. She also did not counter Finch and Reese *themselves* saying that Reese wasn't taking orders, and that "no one was in charge." Her examples were of *other people's* perceptions. When the characters speak for themselves plainly? I listen.

So. Since Gianduja's definition of "master" has Finch "begging" his servant to do things, then yeah, my interpretation of what that means sure does differ. I think Reese ordering Finch around, following his own course whenever he feels like it, including with major decisions (this point was not countered), rebuking Finch, and heck, Reese pointing his gun at his master, who seems willing to suicide if necessary just to keep his servant alive, are pretty clear indicators that their partnership is a much more complex one, and not some simple handing off of Reese's soul into the care of another. Not to mention no one addressed my point about them both working for the Machine, and how Reese stopped tailing Finch (do you really order someone to investigate your "master"?) once he'd negotiated with the Machine himself. I believe Reese has found what he believes to be a final, incorruptible authority, and a partner he can trust, and that's why he's finally happy. I'm just worried what will happen when that source is possibly damaged or subverted.

Finally, as a side note: it's just not obvious to me Harold would *want* to be in control of anyone. He seems much better at controlling code than dealing with people. He's not the front man and has never been. But I suppose that's a different discussion. :)
Mar. 20th, 2013 09:44 pm (UTC)
I accept that you do not feel your examples were countered. However, I do feel they were. In essence, both of us feel that the points and examples made for the other view, respectively, do not work to counter the points and examples made for our own view.

This truly is a matter of interpretation, and we could go on forever in this vein. At this point it's fairly clear the discussion isn't going to advance further; both sides have frequently made their points, with reference to concrete canon examples, and both sides have entirely failed to convince the other side of their view.

At the very least, it has been made clear that the view I (and several others) have argued *is* valid, and based in the canon. Nobody has tried to argue that your own view is not also valid. It's possible for there to be more than one valid interpretation of a source.
Mar. 20th, 2013 10:15 pm (UTC)
Sorry, but there's no wiggle room in Finch saying "No one is in charge," and Reese saying "I don't take orders." What's difficult to understand is why people prefer to project otherwise.
Mar. 20th, 2013 11:03 pm (UTC)
Sorry, but there is no wiggle room required, because this, too, is subject to interpretation and context.
Mar. 20th, 2013 11:32 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's my point. Your interpreting allows confirmation bias. I'll just stick to the words.
Mar. 20th, 2013 07:55 pm (UTC)
Oh, you`re watching POI now? Somehow I must have missed this.

That is an interesting perspective and in general, I might agree though I wouldn`t use the term "master" exactly. Though admittedly that might be because other shows/fandom (lets say it starts with "S" and ends with "upernatural" has put such negative connotations in my head regarding readings of a certain relationship, it has become a trigger word for me).

But I`d agree with another commenter of Reese basically having been Ronin before he found Finch. Reese is the warrior, the leader in all things battle whereas Finch is more like his modern-day mage/wizard. That means to a certain point he directs the quest and also has a care-taking role on an interpersonal level.

Only, I think their relationship is two-way at this point. Reese might not exactly see it but Finch not only needs a warrior to his wizard but he needs Reese specifically, not just any muscle. And with the loss of Nathan still obviously a factor in his life, I`m not sure Finch could go on longterm after losing Reese. The same way Reese couldn`t keep up the quest without Finch.

Which, in fairness to either of them, would be pretty impossible. It`s at least a two-man job, mostly they involve Fusco and Carter anyway, and you need both skills-sets. Reese was smart enough to figure out the number-decoding system pretty quick but without a hacker/banker? No way to keep this jig up. Same for Finch who does more leg-work (ha) nowadays but could never handle fights and action like Reese can.

I think they are symbiotic emotionally as well as practically now.
Mar. 20th, 2013 08:22 pm (UTC)
It's only just happened. :-) I was smart this time and skipped the first ep entirely...

lets say it starts with "S" and ends with "upernatural" has put such negative connotations in my head regarding readings of a certain relationship, it has become a trigger word for me

I hesitate to ask, but... which relationship is this? (I am still so glad I detached myself from that show fairly early on.)

Only, I think their relationship is two-way at this point.

Oh yes, absolutely. I see it the same way. I didn't write as much about Finch and what Reese means to him because the Reese side of the equation totally blindsided and flabbergasted me, and the Finch side is more subtle, but Finch most definitely needs Reese specifically, not just anyone.

In the beginning, this is to do with the as-yet not entirely revealed Finch backstory, I think - because Finch was (in whatever way) responsible for making Reese into the hollow shell he was at the beginning of the series. Reese is a central part of his personal redemption, his attempt to make amends for his past mistakes.

And once Reese grows closer to Finch, who doesn't let himself get close to many people, there's also the emotional component. Finch definitely needs Reese as a friend; Reese is beginning to fill the emotional void that Finch has been living with for a very long time now, and without him he would be desperately alone. Quite possibly simply desperate, period.

However, I do think that Finch would go on without Reese. He would not be happy, and would quite probably shrivel to dust emotionally; but he *would* go on with the numbers, and he *would* find another warrior, even if they would never be able to work remotely as well with him as Reese, or be remotely as important to him. But Finch's purpose and drive to redeem himself is stronger than any amount of emotional pain, and he would go on anyway.

By contrast, Reese - as I see it - could not do this. Even if he found another computer guy as brilliant as Finch who would be able to do most of the things Finch does, I simply can't see him being able to go on.
Mar. 20th, 2013 08:48 pm (UTC)
I hesitate to ask, but... which relationship is this? (I am still so glad I detached myself from that show fairly early on.)

It`s the brothers "relationship". Basically, you remember what kind of relationship they established Dean had with John and how it was so unhealthy and Sam (as well as fandom) bitched that Dean needed to stand up for himself.

Yet these days you find pretty much the same dynamic (only with more manipulation/shaming/blaming and less overt bullying) for Dean/Sam and suddenly it`s the best thing ever and so cute and wonderful and whatnot. Oh, and instead of "standing up for himself", it`s now "why doesn`t he bow down more and knows his place" basically.

Urgh. Few people outright say it but they express the need for a master-sub relationship with Dean happily WANTING/needing it. And there is just not enough brain bleach in the world for me.

It has put me on such a big equality kink, it`s not even funny. Even with shows such as POI which have done nothing to warrant panicked reactions about glorifying grotesque variations of d/s.

However, I couldn`t enjoy the show if I didn`t perceive the relationship between Finch and Reese as completely equal on all levels that count in my book. Of course, for various reasons you can never achieve true equality between two people. But I think of them as two strong yet equally broken (ha, bad pun) personalities who are in the process of healing each other right now.

So while I agree with some underlying notion of your post, I have a different reading/interpretation of its meaning, you might say. Even if it`s just for my peace of mind. :)
Mar. 20th, 2013 09:31 pm (UTC)
there is just not enough brain bleach in the world for me.

Oh dear. Ack, just this brief summary is enough to disgust me. And yes, sadly it fits so well with some tendencies that were already there in early-season fandom (and canon, too).

I absolutely understand the resulting equality kink. :-)

Though really, it's not even that I see Reese and Finch as actually having an unequal relationship. It's just that in my eyes, their roles are defined in a way that has one as the leader, and the other as his trusted right hand. Which - granted - still does not fulfill your requirements for a relationship that is completely equal in all ways, I guess. ;-)

But I think of them as two strong yet equally broken (ha, bad pun) personalities who are in the process of healing each other right now.

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